The Guardian has a disturbing report on the effect of economic and banking sanctions on Iran, which has resulted in serious hardship being imposed on sick people because of the resulting scarcity of life-saving drugs.
Hundreds of thousands of Iranians with serious illnesses have been put at imminent risk by the unintended consequences of international sanctions, which have led to dire shortages of life-saving medicines such as chemotherapy drugs for cancer and bloodclotting agents for haemophiliacs.
Western governments have built waivers into the sanctions regime – aimed at persuading Tehran to curb its nuclear programme – in an effort to ensure that essential medicines get through, but those waivers are not functioning, as they conflict with blanket restrictions on banking, as well as bans on “dual-use” chemicals which might have a military application.
The report goes on to identify the tens of thousands of people who are being denied access to important and medicines and treatments because of the fears of medical companies that the US will retaliate against them for providing such things.
Meanwhile, the scale of the looming Iranian health crisis threatens to overwhelm recent efforts to mitigate the sanctions regime. At present 85,000 new cancer patients are diagnosed each year, requiring chemotherapy and radiotherapy which are now scarce. Iranian health experts say that annual figure has nearly doubled in five years, referring to a “cancer tsunami” most likely caused by air, water and soil pollution and possibly cheap low-quality imported food and other products.
In addition, there are over 8,000 haemophiliacs who are finding it harder to get blood clotting agents. Operations on haemophiliacs have been virtually suspended because of the risks created by the shortages. An estimated 23,000 Iranians with HIV/Aids have had their access to the drugs they need to keep them alive severely restricted. The society representing the 8,000 Iranians suffering from thalassaemia, an inherited blood disorder, has said its members are beginning to die because of a lack of an essential drug, deferoxamine, used to control the iron content in the blood.
Of course, such humanitarian considerations are hardly likely to move the leaders of western countries. Recall US Secretary of State Madeline Albright’s comment in 1996 that the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children as a result of US–led sanctions was “worth it”. Watch how casually she says it, as if it was no big deal. And she was right, because she suffered absolutely no consequences for her brutally callous words and actions in support of a policy that had murderous consequences. After all, who cares about dead children, as long as they are foreign and in a country that the US has declared to be an enemy?